There is a lot that still needs to happen before the Dallas Cowboys' 53 man roster takes shape in early September, but with all of the pieces added, there is a lot to like about how the roster may shape up at the end of preseason.
Because of my personality, I like to look at the possibilities. Well here is a possible outcome for the 53 man roster, as we sit in May.
- Dak Prescott
- Kellen Moore
While many would like to see another name sitting behind Dak Prescott on the depth chart, it's unlikely that will happen, barring another training camp injury to backup, Kellen Moore.
The coaching staff likes Moore and the front office seems to like Moore as well, showing their comfort level as they were willing to head into the 2016 season with Moore as the backup.
This is one of those "In McClay we Trust" moments. They seem to like him, so let's roll with him. Hopefully he's never needed anyway.
Running Back (5)
- Ezekiel Elliott
- Darren McFadden
- Rod Smith
- Keith Smith
- Jahad Thomas
Ezekiel Elliott and Darren McFadden's roles are clearly delineated. Elliott is the work-horse three-down back, and McFadden is the versatile backup who can spell Elliott on early downs as well as passing downs.
Rod Smith's presence on the roster will not surprise me when it happens. He plays on special teams and is a good power runner who can be used in short yardage situations.
Keith Smith is the team's fullback. Years of trying to use a tight end to play fullback are gone as Smith has now cemented his place in the offense, even if he's isn't used very much.
Absent is any kind of "scat back" that fans love, which I think is a bit overrated.
Everyone would love to have a Darren Sproles, James White, or Dion Lewis type of back, the problem is those guys are hard to find. Darren Sproles may be the best at what he does, EVER. I'd honestly rather give passing game snaps to Elliott and McFadden who may not be as quick, but offer as much speed and more power than a Lance Dunbar type.
It's not unforeseeable that Ryan Switzer gets some of the Dunbar packages with his experience as a running back in high school.
Wide Receiver (5)
The three at the top are no surprise here. Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, and Cole Beasley have solidified their status as the top receiving options for the team. Williams' blocking ability keeps him in the game and gives a boost to the run game.
Gone are Lucky Whitehead and Brice Butler with the additions of Switzer and 2017 7th round pick Noah Brown. Switzer will likely win the returner jobs, which leaves Whitehead's place on the team in question.
Butler is a good receiver, at times, but has also had some untimely drops.
While Brown is a project, he offers an immediate upgrade in his blocking ability and his toughness and physicality could be used on special teams. Brown can be used in the same role that Vince Mayle was called up for in 2016: the big blocking wide receiver.
Tight End (3)
- Jason Witten
- Rico Gathers
- Geoff Swaim
I'm going a bit long here at tight end because I don't think the team will be able to sneak Rico Gathers to the practice squad if he isn't ready to take a regular spot on the game day roster.
Jason Witten is the TE1 until someone takes his job, which isn't likely in 2017.
James Hanna and Geoff Swaim both offer good depth and run game blocking ability. I think the team wouldn't mind going long to keep both of them if Gathers' blocking ability isn't ready to go. If it is, one of these two won't make it. I'm thinking Hanna, who could also be a PUP candidate to start the year much like Darren McFadden and his NFI stint in 2016.
Offensive Line (9)
- Tyron Smith
- Zack Martin
- Travis Frederick
- La'el Collins
- Chaz Green
- Jonathan Cooper
- Byron Bell
- Joe Looney
- Emmett Cleary
The biggest question with this group is where La'el Collins will play. He figures to start at either left guard or right tackle, but at the moment, that is an unknown. The Cowboys seem to be trying to find their best five players on the line. That could mean Jonathan Cooper becomes the starting left guard because Collins is the best right tackle option.
Byron Bell will be on the roster because he is a veteran presence that can play multiple spots on the offensive line.
If Chaz Green isn't the starting right tackle then he will serve as the swing tackle again this year. Emmett Cleary serves as more tackle depth with Green's injury history.
Defensive Line (9)
- Taco Charlton
- Maliek Collins
- DeMarcus Lawrence
- Cedric Thornton
- Tyrone Crawford
- David Irving
- Benson Mayowa
- Charles Tapper
- Stephen Paea
Taco Charlton has a real shot to be a day-one starter, but on which side of the defensive line? That is a big question heading into OTAs. The team loves him, but where does he fit?
Charles Tapper is another Jaylon Smith story. Got a redshirt year his rookie season and appears to be healthy and has slimmed down a bit to get ready to play the right defensive end spot. He'll have to get back into game shape, but could be an enormous addition to the defensive line rotation.
Outside of Stephen Paea and Cedric Thornton -- who are best utilized as 1-technique tackles -- and Maliek Collins at 3-technique, the rest of the defensive line group seems to be able to line up in several places.
Several guys found their stride at times last season like David Irving, Benson Mayowa, and Collins. The hope is they will take another step forward.
It seems like they have the depth now at defensive end that they can move Tyrone Crawford back to 3-technique. While he was effective at end, his best position is inside.
- Sean Lee
- Jaylon Smith
- Anthony Hitchens
- Damien Wilson
- Kyle Wilber
- Mark Nzeocha
Sean Lee made his first trip to the Pro Bowl last year and received a 1st team All-Pro award for his work on the weak side of the Dallas Cowboys 4-3 scheme. Talent has never been the issue with Lee, it was always health. Last year he had some luck in the health department and we got to see his talent over a full 16 games. Perfect fit on the weak side.
Jaylon Smith might be the most eagerly awaited debut of any defensive player we have drafted since DeMarcus Ware. If he is healthy, he will be the starter in the middle and after reading Staff Writer Kevin Brady's scouting review, we are going to love what he brings to the defense.
That leaves the strong side linebacker spot to be battled over in camp and throughout the season. Damien Wilson was very effective over there, but the team will also give Anthony Hitchens a shot as well.
While six linebackers may not be enough, let's not forget that Keith Smith has some experience there and could provide depth if needed. Your seventh linebacker is probably around for special teams play, which the team can get from Keith Smith, Rod Smith, and Robert Blanton.
Count me as someone who didn't see a need to go defensive back in the first round during the draft. I thought that Nolan Carroll's addition equated that of Brandon Carr, with a bit more turnover potential, and Anthony Brown was a player to watch to take another step forward. Orlando Scandrick was going to be another year removed from his injury and better prepared for the season.
While they didn't invest a first round pick, they certainly invested heavily at cornerback during the draft.
Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis were added to the cornerback group and both have a shot at significant playing time as soon as week one.
While I think it's more likely that Carroll and Brown are your week one starters on the outside and Scandrick in the slot, training camp competition could certainly change all of that. Awuzie and Lewis both have tremendous ability and can contribute right away. The question is will the coaching staff and front office be willing to give two rookies significant playing time week one and let them grow?
I could see a scenario where Scandrick is a camp casualty because of the play of Lewis and Awuzie. If both show they are ready to go, Scandrick, at his advanced age for a cornerback, could be on the way out as the team gets younger.
Marquez White offers very intriguing athleticism and length that I would like to keep on the active roster and develop. Especially if the team releases Scandrick, White becomes depth on the outside.
Byron Jones is entrenched as the starter at one of the safety spots. Because they like to use a rotation, there will be plenty of snaps for Jeff Heath, Xavier Woods, and Kavon Frazier, on defense as well as special teams.
Robert Blanton figures to be depth and he'll add to special teams while providing some veteran depth in case the younger guys don't hold up to the pressures of starting at safety opposite Jones. The hope is that through competition, the cream will rise to the top and they will be able to replace Barry Church's production over the last few years.
Heath and Woods have shown a penchant for creating turnovers and making plays on the football, which is something this Rod Marinelli defense has been missing.
Awuzie's ability to also play safety allows Dallas to only carry four players here.
Special Teams (3)
- Dan Bailey
- Chris Jones
- L.P. Ladouceur
There will be camp bodies at each of these positions, but this group is set. They've been good to great at what they do.
Where did I go wrong? Where did I go right? Let me know below.
2018 In Review: Byron Jones Emerges As CB1
Heading into the 2018 season Byron Jones was being asked to prove himself. The former first round pick had fallen out of the coaches' good graces during his third season, though many of his struggles could be attributed to those very coaches which were then questioning his ability.
Being asked to play out of position, or at least in a spot which did not maximize his natural ability, Jones struggled in 2017. Too often he was playing in the box as a safety where his lack of physicality was exposed by the opponent's run game. This was mostly due to the coaching staff falling in love with his tight-end-erasing ability in man coverage, but backfired when overused as a safety.
Once hired the following offseason, Kris Richard and company decided to move Byron Jones to cornerback full time, allowing him to utilize his excellent coverage skills and athletic ability to the fullest, rather than putting him at a disadvantage in the box.
The results? Well, Jones had one of the best seasons of any cornerback in football, earning All Pro and Pro Bowl honors for the first time in his young career.
Byron Jones had a dominant season for Dallas
Pro Football Focus graded Jones as the sixth best cornerback in all of football last season, allowing just 0.79 yards per coverage snap. Despite not having an interception on the season, Jones still earned national recognition as one of the best cornerbacks in the entire league.
Down the stretch of the season, Chidobe Awuzie started to play up to the level which fans had hoped for during the preseason. He had been sticky in coverage most of the year, but now he was making plays on the ball at a much better rate, forcing incompletions. This led to an increase in targets to Jones' side, and though the increase resulted in more catches given up by the number one cornerback, I don't think Jones' play faltered as much as some will have you believe.
The fact is, when you get targeted more you are bound to give up more catches and yards. The key is to force them into contested catches, and make things as difficult for the receiver as possible when targeted.
Byron Jones continued to do this all season long, and fans should be excited for the next step of his growth in 2019.
Cowboys en Español: Comentando el Tope Salarial
Por muchos años, el tema del tope salarial ha sido un tema sensible para los Dallas Cowboys. Entre dinero muerto y otros problemas, el equipo ha tenido una situación delicada en este aspecto. Sin embargo, para la temporada del 2019 tienen más espacio de lo que estamos acostumbrados.
Según Over The Cap, los Cowboys tendrán aproximadamente 48 millones de dólares disponibles en 2019. Es importante recalcar que este número no es definitivo y puede cambiar. Año tras año, esta administración ha sido aficionada de reestructurar los contratos de ciertos veteranos para liberar espacio salarial constantemente. Además de esto, hay varios jugadores bajo contrato que el equipo podría decidir cortar para liberar aún más dinero.
Al ver sólo 48 millones disponibles, es complicado imaginar un escenario en que el equipo logre satisfacer todos sus objetivos. Hay bastantes candidatos a grandes extensiones en el equipo, principalmente dos jugadores. En una liga en la que quarterback es la posición más importante, la segunda más importante podría ser la del caza cabezas, cuyo objetivo es ir tras el quarterback contrario.
Pues en Dallas, hoy dos jugadores en estas posiciones que hay que extender. El más urgente sin duda es el defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence. Lawrence se puso el jersey del equipo cuando este lo designó a jugar bajo la etiqueta franquicia. Afortunadamente, el atleta de 26 años la hizo de soldado y jugó sin amenazar con faltar a entrenamientos ni pretemporada.
Lo que sí comentó es que no pasaría por lo mismo en 2019. Ahora, el momento está aquí y es tiempo de que los Cowboys lo extiendan. El valor de Lawrence es difícil de predecir, pero es bastante seguro que se acercará a los números de Khalil Mack. Mack hizo historia ganando un contrato que en promedio gana 23.5 millones al año. Si bien no anticiparía que lo supere, la cifra estará cerca al contrato del defensivo de los Chicago Bears.
Además está Dak Prescott, cuyo contrato probablemente estará por encima de los 25 millones anuales. Son contratos caros, pero son piezas fundamentales para el equipo. Definitivamente se les tiene que pagar a ambos. Son pilares que año tras año buscan equipos en toda la NFL.
Además de esto, Amari Cooper, Ezekiel Elliott, Cole Beasley y más podrían tener un impacto en el tope salarial. Algunos buscan un contrato nuevo, otros una extensión. Pero honestamente, me parece que habrá más espacio en el tope salarial de lo que pensamos. Sólo es cuestión de tiempo para que los Cowboys comiencen a reestructurar a sus veteranos para ahorrarse unos cuantos millones para utilizar en agencia libre.
Tyron Smith, Tyrone Crawford entre otros pueden ser buenas opciones para comenzar este proceso. Antes era Jason Witten uno de los candidatos favoritos para este proceso, pero él ya se encuentra comentando partidos para ESPN. En Inside The Star, continuaremos actualizándote con contenido al día de los Dallas Cowboys.
Can the Cowboys Become Legitimate NFC Conference Contenders this Offseason?
Super Bowl LIII is in the books, and the Dallas Cowboys can look back on a better-than-expected 2018 campaign. Having won the NFC East with a 10-6 record and bowing out to eventual finalists Los Angeles Rams, the Cowboys' young team can look ahead to 2019 as a chance to take another step forward.
The offseason is now upon us, with the NFL free agency period opening in the middle of March and the NFL Draft coming around at the end of April. Until those times, experts, pundits, and fans are left to assess their teams and predict their activities in the running to the start of next season.
The Dallas Cowboys are in a precarious position, with the team exceeding expectations, still being very young and having plenty of cap space, but also having many top-end players set to become free agents and being without a first-round pick in this year’s draft. There does, however, appear to be a way for the team to make improvements and solidify their place atop the NFC East and potentially go on to win in the Conference Finals.
Lock Down the Big Guns
Many see DeMarcus Lawrence as the top potential free agent this spring, so the Dallas Cowboys need to do everything in their power to lock down the 26-year-old defensive end.
Vice President Stephen Jones has emphasized the team’s target of retaining their own stars, per Star-Telegram, with Lawrence, Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, Ezekiel Elliott, and perhaps Byron Jones being in the discussion for long-term deals.
As it stands, the team will have roughly $48.5 million in cap space for next season, which leaves plenty of space to re-sign their top players. They look set to let go of Tavon Austin, David Irving, and quite possibly Cole Beasley, among others, leaving a need to add reinforcements.
Adding New Talent
One of the most heavily rumored moves for Dallas in this free agency is picking up native Texan and former Legion of Boom linchpin Earl Thomas, per Forbes.
Against the Rams in the playoffs and throughout the season, the Cowboys lacked a defenseman who could make plays on the pass. Thomas is one of the notorious ball hawks in the league, boasting 28 career interceptions, three of which came in just four games of last season.
If the Cowboys can re-sign their stars while keeping some space for an Earl Thomas-sized contract, which clocked in at $10.4 million in 2018 for the Seattle Seahawks, their odds of going all the way next season will significantly increase.
Right now, the expected names of the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs lead the odds to win the next Super Bowl at +750. Behind them, the Rams sit at +900 having suffered a suffocating defeat in this year’s Super Bowl. Much further down are the Cowboys at +2500 right now with redbet. If they re-sign Lawrence, pay their young stars, and bring in Thomas, they’ll shoot up the table of favorites.
Then, there’s also the additions in the draft to consider.
The Cowboys may be without a first-round selection, but that may end up working in their favor. Round one of the 2019 NFL Draft is set to be laden with defensive selections according to most mock drafts, with a few quarterbacks sprinkled around and a minimal selection of offensive weapons. If the Cowboys re-sign Lawrence, they’ll be looking good at defensive end, so should then turn to giving Prescott another weapon in the passing game, which will also help to keep defenses honest and give Elliott more room to operate.
As stated, the NFL is a passing league, and Prescott exploded once he was given a viable option in Amari Cooper. Michael Gallup is expected to take another step forward next season, but just in case, the Cowboys can add another strong receiving option in the draft thanks to the strength of the defensive class. A.J. Brown of Ole Miss will almost certainly go in the first round, but exciting talents in D.K. Metcalf, Parris Campbell, Marquise Brown, and Deebo Samuel could all still be available when Dallas rings in during the second round.
Improving Dallas' pass options and pass defense will go a long way toward improving the team and allowing them to push on to a bigger and better campaign in 2019.
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